The Evolution of the Buy Nothing Project

The Buy Nothing Project is a network of hyper-local gift economies with the founding principle of “Give Where You Live.” Buy Nothing Bainbridge was co-founded by us, Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller, in July 2013 as the inaugural Buy Nothing Project group. By the end of 2013, there were 80 Buy Nothing groups in the United States and Canada. Throughout 2014, over 350 more groups had been added to the project. By the end of 2015, that number had nearly doubled, with groups in 18 countries worldwide. There are now over 4,000 groups in 30 nations and the project continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

Our aim in helping to create local gift economies in as many communities as possible by asking people to give where they live has had both positive and negative outcomes. The lessons we’ve learned have shaped the project into what it is today and we’d love for you to read our story here.

Ultimately, we’d like to be such a success that our groups would no longer be needed, we’d know our nearby neighbors, their needs and habits, and help each other without any social media platform. However, we’re still a long way from this true gift-economy model. It has been our model to encourage, but not require, groups to “sprout” into smaller neighborhood groups when they get very large. They can also “cap” their membership to keep the existing giving community as it is. In a large group of people, where over 2000 members are actively engaged, and beyond, you may never get to know everyone. Groups that grow beyond 2000 active members could easily be 3,000 members a year later, and the person-to-person connection would be diminished by size even more. How great would it be if you knew most of your neighbors nearby where you live? And you weren’t creating extra carbon emissions by driving around to do pickups because you can just walk down the street or bike to your giving/borrowing/receiving destinations? Someday, this will be a reality.

If a group sprouts, each group has new boundaries, that are hopefully set up to be as inclusive as possible of diverse groups of people, and all of the members of the original group are asked to join only one new group. The larger group is then archived so that the giving can continue, once again on a hyper-local scale.

If you have any questions about the Mission and Principles of the Buy Nothing Project, or about the sprouting or capping process, please feel free to contact a member of your local group leader team. We also have FAQs that may help answer your questions. Thank you so much for joining us in this experiment, and for making this community, and this Project the amazing place that it is!

Do you have questions about how your group is run or need clarification about specific rules? Please review our Fine Print or check out the Member Resources page: Member Resources.